4 Singaporeans arrested under ISA for involvement in armed violence abroad

Houthi supporters demonstrating against Saudi Arabia-led air strikes in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
Houthi supporters demonstrating against Saudi Arabia-led air strikes in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Four Singapore citizens have been dealt with under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for taking part in violence or intending to undertake violence in armed conflicts overseas, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced on Wednesday (March 16).

Two of the men, Mohammad Razif Yahya, 27, and Amiruddin Sawir, 53, were detained under the ISA in August 2015 for voluntarily fighting in the sectarian conflict in Yemen.

A third, Mohamed Mohideen Mohamed Jais, 25, had also performed armed sentry duties in the wartorn Middle East country and was issued with a Restriction Order, which limits his activities, this month.

In the first case of its kind, Wang Yuandongyi, 23, was also placed on a Restriction Order this month. The naturalised Singaporean had left Singapore and was on his way to Turkey and Syria to join a Kurdish militia group that was fighting against terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

On the request of the Singapore Government, he was located by the authorities of a third country he had travelled to - which the ministry did not name - and turned back to Singapore.

 

The ministry said Razif and Amiruddin were detained for having voluntarily taken up arms and taken part in Yemen's armed sectarian conflict.

Razif had begun studying in a religious institution there in January 2010, and Amiruddin begun his studies there in July 2013.

The two had volunteered for armed sentry duties at the school against possible attacks by Shi'ite Houthi insurgents, who have been fighting the Yemeni government since 2014.

Razif went through sniper training, and was equipped with an AK-47 assault rifle and a Dragunov sniper rifle. Amiruddin was also armed with an AK-47 rifle. Both of them were involved in fighting the rebels.

 

"Razif and Amiruddin were prepared to kill and be killed as 'martyrs' in the sectarian conflict in Yemen," the ministry said in a statement. "By taking up arms in Yemen, they have demonstrated a readiness to use violence to pursue their religious cause. As such, they are assessed to pose a security threat to Singapore."

Both men returned to Singapore separately between April and June 2015. They were arrested under the ISA in Singapore in July 2015 and were each issued a two-year Order of Detention in August 2015.

As for Mohideen, he had performed armed sentry duties while pursuing religious studies in Yemen, the ministry added.

While he did not encounter a situation where he had to open fire, he "understood that he had to return fire using the AK-47 assigned to him, with the aim to kill if there was an incursion by the Houthis".

"The Government takes a stern view against anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how they rationalise such violence ideologically, or where the violence takes place," the ministry said.

To date, 72 people have been detained under the ISA for terrorism-related activities since 2002, and about 80 per cent of them have since been released. There are presently 14 persons serving Orders of Detention, one on suspension direction, and 22 persons under Restriction Orders, which restrict their activities.

Anyone who is aware of a person becoming involved in terrorism-related activities, including planning to travel to conflict zones to take part in an armed conflict, should promptly inform the Internal Security Department on 1800-2626-473 or call the police on 999, it added.

Muis and the Religious Rehabilitation Group have responded to the arrests. Their response below in full.

MUIS’ RESPONSE

The recent spate of terrorist attacks internationally and the recent MHA arrests in Singapore clearly show that the threat of terrorism and extremism is real and ongoing. In particular, the arrests show that there are institutions abroad that may masquerade as centres of Islamic learning, but which are actually involved in armed conflict and militant activities, and/or propagate extremist ideologies. These foreign schools prey on the vulnerable, especially those who approach them with the intent of deepening their religious belief. 
 
Deputy Director, Office of the Mufti (Muis), Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, said: “We strongly urge Muslims in Singapore who wish to study Islam to approach only recognised religious teachers (asatizah) for guidance and advice. For those who wish to study in foreign institutions, please consult Muis and we will provide guidance and the necessary support on the appropriate overseas institutions for Islamic studies. We would also like to encourage parents and family members to play a more active role in guiding their loved ones to proper sources of Islamic learning.”
 
“As a community, we must continue to be vigilant against extremist elements in our society. We must continue to uphold Islamic teachings that are relevant to contemporary needs, and which are suited to our way of life in multi-religious Singapore.  Muis, in partnership with mosques and local institutions, has introduced various programmes of Islamic learning, such as aLIVE and ADIL (Adult Islamic Learning) that seek to achieve these objectives,” added Dr Nazirudin.

Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG)'s response

The use of violence in every sense including engaging or intending to pursue an interest whether for or against a subject has no justification and should not be tolerated.

The recent case of 4 radicalised Singaporeans dealt under ISA for terrorism-related activities highlights the enduring threat of terrorism. These individuals are seen as posing a threat to national security by supporting and partaking in armed violence and are prepared to fight with fire arms. Their participation is of destructive nature as they favour violence.

The Singapore authorities and the community here have always view terrorism as a serious threat and would put their best efforts to ensure that terrorism and extremism will not take root in the society.

Several efforts and platforms have been put in place for members of the public to consult and get advice on matters related to terrorism and radicalism. Whether local or overseas, Singaporeans could seek advice or information from places such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, Religious Rehabilitation Group, community centres, organizations and self-help groups.In this way, Singaporeans could inquire clarification and get appropriate advice on the matter.

It is important that we alert our loved ones, families, friends to be vigilant and be aware of them becoming involved in terrorism related activities. We need to look out for signs on them planning to be a part or travelling to conflict zones. Everyone can play a role to safeguard Singapore's security and interest.

RRG has set-up a helpline for the public to call if they have questions related to issues on radicalization, or aspects of religion which can potentially lead one to be radical. This initiative aims to provide the public access to a legitimate reference point on radicalization matters, rather than being left in a lurch without any religious guidance, or turning to non-credible sources on the Internet for clarification. Anyone who wish to seek guidance and clarification can call the RRG Helpline @ 1800 774 7747.